Saturday, June 27

The Iranian Revolution & the Palestinians

Ahmadinajad has voted for himself many times in many ways.
It seems that the powerful Iranian Revolutionary Guard, Basij (paramilitary, plainclothes vigilantes - is the main force used to quell the anti-government protests) and various security forces have gained the upper hand and quelled the Iranian uprising for the time being. An uneasy calm has been achieved and it can only be a temporary respite from the unrest.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinajad may have proved his mettle for now, but the winds of change in Iran will blow again. It is more than forged election results although this may have been the catalyst. News coming out of Iran is scanty as foreign journalists have been expelled and a news blackout has been declared.

Fortunately news of cruelty and abuse of power is getting through the heavy censorship, thanks to internet software such as You Tube, Flickr and Twitter. Much of the news is authentic and does give a picture of what is going on in strife-ridden Iran. The scene of the killing of a 27 year old lady, Neda Agha Soltan, by a Basij sniper's bullet in front of the camera viewed by the whole world, was horrifying. She became a symbol of the uprising overnight - perhaps even a martyr. Martyrdom is much revered in Shiite Islam.

The evil Ahmadinajad regime can only fall when the Iranian Police and Army desert and join the uprising. While the forces remain loyal to Ahmadinajad, the uprising will fail in its objective. The opposition candidate for president Mir Hussein Moussavi, is a figurehead and his influence will weaken. After all, he is no democrat nor is his ideology very different from Ahmadinajad.

While the uprising of the Iranian people has gained worldwide support, it does not seem that there will be any attempt to counter the violent repression by the Iranian vigilantes loyal to Ahmadinajad.
How does this affect the Palestinians? Ahmadinajad has been calling for Israel's destruction in the hope of getting Palestinian support for his grand scheme of domination of the Middle East. He has given money to terrorist organizations operating in the occupied territories in order to gain influence.

Ahmadinajad does not care for the Palestinians; he only cares for his megalomanic self. He uses them and for now he will probably climb down from his perch and be more involved in internal issues of his country. His power base despite his success in quelling the demonstrations is weakened and the Ayatollahs of Qom are showing signs of internal divisions. This is where his power base lies.

Ahmadinajad's support of Hamas and other terror organizations in the occupied territories will weaken as his hands are full in oppressing the uprising. Perhaps this could be seen as Iran's intifada. It would be in Palestinian interests not to kow-tow to the Ahmadinajad regime.

Ahmadinajad is a dictator and he will tolerate no opposition to his regime. He would force a Shiite style Islam on the Palestinians if given the chance.

It would be prudent for the Palestinians not to support Ahmadinajad for the reasons mentioned. It is not even a case of the enemy of my enemy is my friend. Ahmadinajad is the enemy of Israel, Palestinians and the Arab World! Perhaps the Palestinians do not realize it, but they are due for a rude awakening one day.

In order to weaken Ahmadinajad the free world should apply sanctions on Iran in the same spirit as they did to apartheid South Africa. They should isolate Iran and recall their ambassadors until Ahmadinajad falls.The revenues from oil finance the Ahmadinajad regime. A total embargo on Iran's oil supplies would bring Ahmadinajad to his knees. The sooner this is done, the better for all.


Those who oppress
Millions of Palestinians
For 42 years –
Rave about the freedom fighters
- in Iran.

Those who rejected the results
Of the Palestinian elections –
Are shocked by the thwarting
Of the people’s will
- in Iran.

Those who shoot and kill
Palestinian demonstrators
In Wadi Ara, Bilin and Nialin –
Shudder at the sight of
The police shooting protesters
- in Iran.

Gush Shalom Ad published in Haaretz, June 26, 2009

Saturday, June 20

The Anticipated Netanyahu Speech was a Damp Squid

There was great anticipation of the speech that Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu was to deliver. It was Netanyahu's antidote to President Obama's speech delivered at Cairo University.

Obama expressed his opposition to the building and expansion of settlements in the occupied West Bank and the US support for the two-state solution. Netanyahu decided not to clash with Obama on that issue and accepted grudgingly the two-state solution with severe limitations.

Obama had put the thumbscrews on Netanyahu. It is as if he said: "Accept the two-state solution or else bear the consequences". The result was a "hiccupping acceptance" with severe limitations ensuring that the two-state solution will never be accepted by the Palestinians. This means maintaining the status quo in true Netanyahu style.

It is significant to note that the venue chosen for his speech was Bar Ilan University - the institute of right wing ideology. In this right wing environment he felt confident. Most of his audience was Likud supporters and all he did was preach to the converted. He made a very Zionistic speech - a patriotic call - and an attempt to patch up his differences with the Obama Administration on the two-state solution and settlement expansion. At the same time he wanted to satisfy his right-wing coalition partners.

The limitations imposed on the Palestinians will set the clock back for a peaceful solution to the conflict. Netanyahu also stated that the Palestinians must recognize Israel as a Jewish state. Surely this is unnecessary! Is it not sufficient to recognize Israel's right to exist in security within recognized borders?

Israel is a state of all its citizens and demographically has a Jewish majority. It is a matter of semantics. The emphasis of Israel being recognized as a
Jewish state is a source of contention with the Palestinians as the innuendo is viewed by them as an attempt at "ethnic cleansing" to ensure that Israel will become free of Arabs. This is how the moderate Palestinian leadership thinks. The settlement expansion in the occupied territories somehow reinforces that view. After all, every meter of illegal settlement in the occupied territories means a meter less for the size of a future Palestinian state and thus to its viability. What is the point of emphasizing in true patriotic fashion the obvious? Is it an attempt at demagoguery so typical of the Zionist right wing in order to cloud the real issues so important for peace?
The speech received a lukewarm reception by President Obama. He stated that Netanyahu did not go far enough. The Palestinians and the Arab states rejected it outright. The US Administration's pressure on Netanyahu to get him to accept a two-state solution was partially successful. The severe limitations imposed on the establishment of a Palestinian State is so severe that with all due respect, it could never be achieved as it is unacceptable by the Palestinians.

There are those Israeli pundits who maintain that Israel is doing all the compromising while the Palestinians are giving nothing in return to end the conflict. The Palestinians feel Israel has occupied their lands and created the refugee problem. It goes back to 1948 and then again in June 1967. They therefore feel that an injustice has been done to them and they do not need to make compromises apart from carrying out their battle for an independent Palestinian state which is threatened by occupation and expansion of settlements on the West Bank.

A real security problem has to be dealt with in Israel. Israelis fear that a Palestinian state could become a reservoir for terror activity against Israel. The possibility of a Hamas take over as in the case of Gaza cannot be ruled out. Hamas is well known for its hard-line ideology against Israel. It refuses to recognize Israel's right to exist and they do not wish to negotiate with Israel. A Hamas take over in the West Bank could become a nightmare for Israel and the Palestinians as well, judging what happened in Gaza. There is also the chance that Hezbollah and Iran would gain further influence in the West Bank as a result. These are genuine fears that cannot be overlooked. Iran and its Hezbollah ally could include Syria as well. This is another reason why Netanyahu is not prepared to cede any land to the Palestinians apart from traditional ideological reasons.

The right wing coalition partners are not even prepared to accept the two state solution. They believe that the solution to the conflict is the repatriation of Palestinian refugees in Jordan. They believe that Jordan is Palestine and that is where the solution must be found. It has nothing to do with Israel's security at all. Even if there was no terror threat, the right wing, which includes the religious Zionists, believes that they have every right to settle the West Bank, or Greater Israel in their eyes. This includes the building of settlements, stealing Palestinian lands and destroying Palestinian property wherever they can for settlement activity. Even by the wildest stretch of the imagination this has nothing to do with the security of Israel.
The only way to achieve peace with security for both Israel and the Palestinians is to discuss all issues openly. There should not be talk of a limited, demilitarized Palestinian state as a precondition. The solution to the refugee problem, division of Jerusalem into a Palestinian and an Israeli canton so that it could be considered the capital of both Israel and Palestine taking into consideration the population concentration there. Of course there should be cessation of violence on both sides as well as recognition of both sides to each others right to exist in security, peace and dignity.

There was no hint of even discussing these issues in Netanyahu's speech. This is what makes his speech manipulative, insincere and a ploy to satisfy his right wing coalition partners.

Netanyahu was hoping that the violence in Iran because of severe election fraud and its threat to the notorious Ahmadinajad leadership could ease US pressure on Israel. It remains to be seen if this will be a factor. To date this does not appear to be the case.

None of their business

Netanyahu demands that
The Palestinians
Recognize Israel as
The “State of the Jewish People”.

In Oslo, the Palestinians
Have already recognized
The sovereign State of Israel.
All other definitions
Are our own affair.

Until this very day
We have not succeeded
Even to decide
Who is a Jew.
How does that concern
The Palestinians?

Gush Shalom

Ad in Haaretz, June 19, 2009

Saturday, June 13

President Obama's Cairo Speech and Implications

President Obama's visit to Cairo was well received. The speech that he made at Cairo University received a positive response. It was obvious that the speech was intended for the Arab states with whom he wishes to improve relations.

Many observers maintain that this speech was one of President Obama's greatest speeches to date. He made many generalizations but no policy announcements. However, he was clear on two issues:

1. Settlements in the occupied territories must cease.

2. The enlarging of existing settlements under the excuse of" national growth" must end as well.

There was no mention of removing existing settlements on the West Bank.

Obama is not anti-Israel despite the fact that the right wing in Israel wish to label him as such. The accusations of the Israeli right wing claiming that Obama is Moslem because of his middle name, Hussein, are scandalous! They view his speech as anti-Israel and pro-Arab because he is more outspoken on illegal settlement issues. The previous Bush Administration ignored Israel's settlement policies in the West Bank as well as the make shift outposts.

The Obama Administration made a deeper study of all the peace efforts attempted by previous US administrations noting that all these efforts achieved very little for peace. Obama seems to be adopting a more aggressive peace policy and a different approach compared to US policy of previous US administrations.

While Obama has not formulated any approach towards solving the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, there is a hint that he will not let sleeping dogs lie as the previous administrations did. Obama's Cairo speech illustrates his incredible charisma and a desire to be more involved in formulating peace between Israel and the Palestinians early in his presidency. All the deceptions of Israel under the guise of "natural growth" in the occupied territories which in practice meant building new settlements on stolen Palestinian lands will have to stop.

The Netanyahu government must take heed of the new US approach and change its ideas. Netanyahu's arm will be twisted until he accepts the two-state solution. He has no choice or he will risk US admonishing and pressure by not getting automatic support by the US in preventing the passing of anti-Israel resolutions in the UN. These anti-Israel resolutions will increase and the US will not veto them automatically as in the past.

Israel prides itself in being the only true democracy in the Middle East. This democracy ceases when it comes to the colonization of the West Bank and the abuse of human rights of the Palestinians. Now with a draconian law preventing the commemoration of the Naqba has brought the demise of democracy in Israel a step closer. Collective punishment meted out by the Israeli Security Forces against the Palestinians by humiliating body searches and checkpoints in the guise of security are draconian and not democratic. The uprooting of olive trees, destruction of Palestinian agricultural lands by settler zealots occurs frequently. Many settlers beat up Palestinians for no reason and all these incidents are swept into oblivion by Israel. It is inexcusable and unacceptable!

Israel wishes to be viewed as the biblical David surrounded by a hostile hoard of Goliaths. Yet the occupation of the West Bank and the behavior of the extremist zealot illegal settlers towards defenseless Palestinians dissuade that image. Their aggressive activities against the Palestinians are left largely unpunished.

Obama is aware of human rights abuses in the occupied West Bank. This is incompatible with Western democratic values to which Israel proscribes. He addresses himself to these abuses and realizes that it has to end. The only way to end it must be to end the occupation. Obama is the best friend Israel ever had in the US. At least he is honest in his attitude towards the illegal settlements. He is not side stepping that issue. It remains to be seen how he will get the Netanyahu government to agree. The problem is that the hardcore right wing coalition partners do not accept it. They regard those that oppose the occupation and building of settlements in occupied Palestinian lands as being anti-Zionist or even anti-Semitic. This is ludicrous of course but then their propaganda gains much support amongst the religious right.

It is quite possible that Obama will present a peace plan within the next coming months. It will probably begin with a commitment to the two-state solution, withdrawal to the lines of June 1967 before the Six-Day War and total freeze of settlements on the West Bank. The right wing coalition under Netanyahu will not accept this. It is obvious that Obama's desire to end the hostilities between Israel and the Palestinians as well as withdrawal from Iraq and Afghanistan.

Another factor is the economic slump in the US because of the stock market crash. This reverberated throughout the world including Israel. The only way to improve the US economy is by improving relations with its trading partners and this includes the Arab world whose oil is essential for the US. While many people have lost their jobs because of the severe slump, the improvement in the economic situation in the US could be achieved by solving the conflict.

There seems to be a strained relationship between Obama and Netanyahu. Both leaders are arrogant and that is as far as their similarity goes. Both are determined to stick to their views which are diametrically opposed.

The only alternative under the present Israeli government is a binational apartheid state which can never be democratic as it means continuing the occupation. The opposition to a two state solution will gain ground in the Palestinian camp for a very different reason. They believe that if the two-state solution is not accepted by Israel, it will be replaced by a binational state which within time will have a Palestinian majority. This is a possible alternative to the two-state solution.

Saturday, June 6

U.S. Attempts at Impartiality

In contrast to the Bush Administration, the Obama Administration seems to be bending over backwards to create a new atmosphere for even handedness on Israeli - Palestinian Conflict.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's posturing against the two-state solution is not going to help. In contrast to the Bush Administration indifference towards the conflict, President Obama wishes to improve US relations with the Moslem world. Bush ignored Israel's settlement activity on the West Bank.

The Annapolis Conference that President George Bush convened before the end of his presidency was inconclusive and lead to no final decisions about peace.

The Bush Administration was tainted with problems unsolved, much of which was Bush's creation out of his naive approach to the conflict and to the debacles in Iraq and Afghanistan which tarnished the US image in the Arab world. Obama wishes to improve this by taking a harder line towards Israel's settlement policy in the West Bank.

It seems as if the superficial understandings reached with the previous Bush Administration will be negated and the marking time on Israel's settlement policy will get short shrift from the Obama Administration.

The government of Israel is concerned about the even-handedness of the Obama Administration. In their eyes, the US policy on the settlements in the West Bank is unfair. The settlement policy of all Israel's previous governments in the past has been ignoring the building of settlements on the West Bank and even tacitly encouraging it. Special financial benefits were given to settlers on the West Bank to encourage settlement.

President Obama is visiting Saudi Arabia, Egypt and other Arab States in the Middle East in an attempt to heal the US rift with Moslem states. The Israeli Government is not happy about this development as it means more concessions to the Palestinians over withdrawal from the occupied territories. It means removal of outposts as starters. This also means that illegal settlements on the West Bank will also be removed in stages.

According to reports in the various media, Obama intends to persuade the Arab states to give something in return. It is doubtful if much will be achieved on this trip. Another interesting fact about this trip is that Israel is not on Obama's itinerary. The Arab states claim that the Saudi Plan of 2002 has given many concessions to Israel in the form of recognition and the establishment of normal relations if Israel agrees to the two-state solution and withdraws to the pre-June 1967 borders. The right wing coalition partners of Netanyahu government find this unacceptable. It remains to be seen whether Israel will acquiesce to US demands or to forfeit the automatic support it has been getting from the US as in the past if it panders to right wing settler demands.

The Israeli Government must realize that they are not the only players in the conflict and that peace between Israel and the Palestinians is in the US interests no less than Israel. A very serious problem remains with Hamas in Gaza. Hamas is intransigent and not amenable to negotiating with Israel irrespective of the government in power. How Obama will deal with that remains a big question.

On June 4th 2009, President Obama delivered a speech at Cairo University. His speech reflected a strong desire to make peace with the Moslem world. It was a speech reflecting a fair assessment of the situation between the US and the Moslem world despite the fact that Obama gave no indication as to how this could be achieved.

The Netanyahu government was not happy with the speech as Obama had mentioned the uprooting of settlements on the West Bank. One must bear in mind that this speech was intended for the ears of the Moslem world and not for Israel. US interests are not necessarily Israeli interests. Economic ties with the Arab states are important to the US as a bulwark against the Iranian nuclear threat.

The content of the speech was balanced and time will tell whether it will have much impact on those to whom it was intended. Perhaps the speech was a bit naive and did show a certain lack of knowledge of the history of the conflict as well as the intense hatred between the two sides.

However, President Obama realizes that the key to peace between the Palestinians and Israelis lies in improved relations with the Arab states and Moslem states. Also Obama stated that the key to a solution to the conflict consists of recognition of Israel’s right to exist and the right of the Palestinians to an independent state alongside Israel. This can only be achieved by Israel agreeing to remove illegal outposts and (this could include illegal settlements in the West Bank). After all at the end of the day, there is no other option for an independent Palestinian state but in the occupied West Bank. The Netanyahu approach against the two-state solution is harming Israel according to former ambassador to the United States Sallai Meridor. It remains to be seen how the Netanyahu Government will respond to that. Time is now against Israel and the status quo in constant settlement enlargement on the West Bank has now ended. After all much of the settlements established in the occupied West Bank is on stolen Palestinian lands.

A solution to the conflict is dependent on painful decisions on Israel’s part and the Palestinian agreement to renounce terror in all its forms and to act to prevent it. There is no doubt that the Obama approach differs from that of the previous Bush administration approach which was no approach.

It will be in the interests of all the parties concerned to heed Obama’s speech in Cairo. It is the best thing that came from the US in a long while.

42 years of occupation

42 years of corrupting the country

42 years of creeping annexation

42 years of robber settlement

42 years of increasing violence

42 years of sabotaging peace


Gush Shalom

Ad in Haaretz, June 5, 2009!